Budget U-turn leads to additional millions for colleges
An additional #163;10 million to support colleges this year and a reversal of the government's proposed budget cut of more than #163;40 million for next year were revealed in a surprise U-turn by the finance secretary in his budget speech this week.
The increase takes the colleges' budget for 2013-14 from about #163;512 million to #163;522 million, the finance secretary said.
In a complete reversal of previously proposed cuts to college funding for 2014-15, he also announced that the new budget for that year would remain at #163;522 million - #163;51 million more than originally suggested in the government's spending review.
This meant "an extra #163;61 million, over these two years, allowing Scotland's colleges to go forward with confidence and ambition to deliver the programme of reform", Mr Swinney said.
The government would discuss with the Scottish Funding Council and the further education sector how best to deploy the funding "in a manner that supports reforms and, through it, learners and employers", he added.
Colleges Scotland chief executive John Henderson said: "This is hugely welcome news from the cabinet secretary for finance, which will give colleges stability for the next two years, and help them complete the reform process."
The announcement is seen as only a partial success by NUS Scotland, whose Fund Scotland's Future campaign to reverse the cuts to college budgets was backed by all opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament.
NUS Scotland president Robin Parker said there was still a cut of #163;24.6 million for next year that could cause damage, coming at the same time as colleges were merging amid structural change. While the additional #163;51 million for the following year was welcome, "next year is next year", he said.